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Park LaBrea News
Beverly Press

Thursday October 03, 2013

Elevator Problems Raise Concerns at PLB Towers

By Edwin Folven
Residents packed the auditorium at Park La Brea to voice their concerns regarding ongoing elevator problems in the apartment complex’s towers.
(photo by Edwin Folven)

More than 100 Park La Brea residents packed into the auditorium in the activities center on Tuesday to voice concerns about problems with the elevators in the towers at the apartment complex.

Many people complained that the elevators frequently malfunction or are often out of service, requiring them to climb numerous flights of stairs. The complex has 18 towers that are each 13 stories tall and have 153 units. Each tower has two elevators, but when one is out of service or is being used for tenants moving in or out, major inconveniences occur, according to many people in the audience.

The meeting was organized by a group of residents who have formed an ad hoc committee to address the problems with elevators. Tenants Zhita Rae, Marjorie Green and Arno Hahn are spearheading the committee, which hopes to work with the Park La Brea management to rectify the problem. Representatives from City Councilman Tom LaBonge's office attended the meeting along with members of the city's building and safety department, housing department and fire department. Representatives of the Park La Brea management were initially scheduled to attend but cancelled.

John Burney, director of resident services for Park La Brea, said the management went door to door to every tower apartment prior to the meeting and provided residents with a written update about efforts to solve problems with the elevators. He said the management decided not to attend the meeting when it "seemed to take on a political tone," but that management "wanted to make sure we got our message out clearly to each resident."

Burney said the management takes every complaint about the elevators seriously, and that the elevator repair and maintenance company, Schindler, is on site daily to address problems.

Harry Helman, director of facilities for Park La Brea, said sometimes when small issues are repaired, the crews find larger problems that take longer to address. Sometime parts have to be manufactured to repair the elevators. Burney said the management is in consultation every morning and evening with Schindler on the progress of repairs. The elevator cars date back to when the towers wee built in the 1940s.

"Our direction to Schindler is let's make the repairs as quickly as possible," Burney said. "We are doing everything we can to address the problems and make upgrades."

According to a copy of the written notice provided to each resident in the towers, "Seven towers, 38, 40, 43, 44, 45, 46 and 50, have been upgraded with new equipment. Tower 36 is scheduled for complete upgrades starting in November, which will take approximately four months to complete. Park La Brea management is planning to upgrade one tower per year into the future. Meanwhile, management is committed to maintaining the existing elevators throughout the process."

Burney said residents who have problems with the elevators should first contact the security patrol at (323)549-5508, because they are staffed 24 hours a day and are the first line of response. He said the security can assist residents if they have immediate needs, and will also contact Schindler, which has crews on call 24 hours a day. If one elevator is out of service and somebody is using the other to move, residents are encouraged to call security, and they will ensure there is access for all residents, Burney said.

"In the event that one elevator is down while a resident is moving, our patrol staff is available to help manage elevator usage in the most efficient way possible," the letter to residents stated.

It also stated that resident should push the alarm button if the elevator stops between floors. The patrol service or fire department will respond, and residents should never attempt to force open the doors or crawl out. Burney acknowledged that the summer is a period of high elevator usage, which leads to an "uptick" in maintenance problems.

Carolyn Ramsay, chief of staff for LaBonge, attended the meeting Tuesday and said she would make note of the complaints. The councilman will meet with the management to discuss options in getting the elevators repairs, she added.

Rae said the committee formed in June because the elevator problems appear to be getting worse. She said the committee has received written complaints from hundreds of residents about the issue.

Individual elevators in some towers have been out of service for over a month, elderly residents have missed doctor's appointments because they cannot traverse flights of stairs and people have been trapped periodically inside elevators that stop functioning, according to the committee.

"Problems have occurred on several occasions, and it seems to have escalated," Rae said. "The purpose of the forum is to get as much information as possible from different sources so we can fix the problems."

Moderator Larry Gross, of the Coalition for Economic Survival, led the discussion and called on people in the audience who raised their hands to provide a synopsis of their experiences. Few of the residents who spoke provided their names, but reactions were strong. A resident of Tower 49 who gave her name as Nadine said she believed the elevators need replacement.

"I don't think the issue is repairing the elevators. I think the issue is replacing the elevators," she said. "Our elevators are fifty, sixty years old. There is a lot of capital improvement going on, but we are told we can't get new elevators because of the costs."

Lawrence Kim, a resident of Tower 44, said the elevators seem to never work.

"Every week in Tower 44, the elevator is on the fritz," Kim said. "I don't think we should go through this."

An unidentified resident of Tower 42 who said she is in her eighties, added that she has had many problems with the elevators.

"Our elevators have been out, both of them, at least twice this month," she said. "I have slowly climbed up the stairs. At this point, I think it is an ADA issue. Disabled people have the right to elevators."

Los Angeles Fire Department Battalion Chief Guy Tomlinson said the fire department has received 41 calls for service this year associated with people being stuck in elevators at Park La Brea. He said it takes time and resources away, but acknowledged that elevators are problematic in areas throughout the city.

"There is a large volume of elevators calls at Park La Brea. If the elevators were working properly, we would be over there less and [firefighters] would be answering other calls or providing fire protection services," Tomlinson said. "We will come out to assist you when you call for help. There are many elevators around the city and only so many elevator repair companies. Your fire department will be there."

Inspector Barry Friesen, with the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety, said all elevators operating in the city are inspected at least once a year. Building codes require only one elevator to be operating. He added that there are hundreds of working parts in an elevator, and they sometimes take a considerable amount of time to repair. Freisen said the inspectors try to respond to reports of problems in a timely manner, but is can be difficult given the number of elevators throughout the city.

"We come out when we get a complaint, and we issue citations," Freisen said. "We can't force any owner to modernize an elevator."

Richard Brinson, of the Los Angeles Department of Housing, said residents should make formal complaints to the department about elevator issues, and representatives of the department will address the issues with the property's management. He said the best way to file complaints is through the city's hotline at 311.

LaBonge's field deputy for the area, Benjamin Seinfeld, said residents can also contact him directly with complaints, and they will be directed to the councilman. Seinfeld can be reached at (213)804-2388 or via email at ben.seinfeld@lacity.org.

Rae added that the meeting Tuesday was an informational gathering session, and they plan to take the issues to the management. She said an additional meeting will likely be held in the future to determine how to move forward if the situation does not improve.

"{The management} is definitely trying to work on the problem," Rae said. "We just want the problems fixed."

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